One of our first assignments in Creative Apps was titled “Word in a Bag” and required us to pick a word from out of a bag and make a short film to explain it. The film would be shown to the other groups in the class who wouldn’t know what the word was with the idea being that they had to guess after watching the film.

Research

The word we got was “Somnambulant”, which I had no idea was even a word before carrying out a bit of research. The first place I checked was the online Cambridge Dictionary (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/) where I discovered that a somnambulist is:

a person who suffers from somnambulism (= a condition in which a person walks around while they are sleeping):

They say it’s dangerous to wake a somnambulist.
Helen moves through life like a somnambulist.
So basically, sleepwalking. The next step was for us, in our group of four, to come up with a few ideas for the film using either still images and sound-effects or a combination of moving images, still images and sound.
According to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries:

Resembling or characteristic of a sleepwalker; sluggish.

‘a somnambulant stroll’
‘his somnambulant performance’
‘the plot plods along at a somnambulant pace’
(https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/somnambulant)
From that description, we didn’t have to do someone sleepwalking but could instead just have them moving around sluggishly and not really ‘with it’.
It was time to get the good old spider diagram going and populated with some ideas.
Somnambulant

Scenes we Liked

So far, we liked the idea of a few scenes we could put into the film (from the spider diagram) and so headed out one evening to try and get some. We basically had Conor walking around the centre of Leicester in his Superman pyjamas in a zombie-like state. Those scenes include him walking across the bridge which takes you over the dual carriageway to the bus station, nearly getting run over by me in my car, stumbling down an alleyway before finally putting himself back to bed on the steps of the Athena building in the cultural quarter of Leicester.

There is more to be done as we still need a few more scenes as well as making use of sound effects and some of the techniques I discuss in the following section of this post.

Possible Techniques to Use

In the run-up to our “Word in a Bag” assignment, we were given some bits of kit to try out that we might be able to use in our final piece of work. Below are the things we tried.

Gels

Gels are thin sheets of coloured plastic used to cast different colours onto and around your subject.

They get their name from the fact that gelatine was once used in their manufacture process. These days, though, heat-resistant plastics are used so that they are able to withstand the high temperatures of the light sources they are placed over during photographic and video shoots.

Gel
Gel Sheet

Even so, after a while they will begin to fade and crack meaning they’ll need replacing due to the heat from the light sources used.

It’s very common to see different coloured gels used in the same setup over different light sources to create different looks. The image below is an example of this.

Photography Gels

The gels should be put over the light sources, as described in the text. My images above show the gel over the lens which gives the idea of how much one can change the shoot.

Lighting

The lighting we tried was pretty simple in design and function.

The larger of the two could be used as either an on- or off-camera light source.

Photo light

The following image shows the effect it can create when used off the camera and handheld below the subject’s face.

Key light

The light has securing clips on the sides and the lower edge that allows for things like diffusers or gels to be fixed in place to allow for more effects in your photography and/or videos.

The second light we experimented with was round with lots of little LEDs. These can be switched to be on permanently or flash in various patterns. I liked the effect this had in front of the video camera whilst it was set to a slow shutter speed. The effect it gives is to have light trails across the screen when you move it from side to side, top to bottom or vice-versa. I deleted the file showing this effect so can’t put it in here, D’OH!

Although I liked the effects the second light gave us, I’m not too sure we can use it in our short film “Somnambulant”.

Lens Baby

Probably my favourite bit of kit from the pieces we tried would have to be the Lens Baby.

Lens Baby
Lens Baby

The images above show this piece of equipment with its pouch as well as attached to a DSLR camera like a normal lens. The difference is the concertina part between the camera and the front of the lens.

To focus the image you squash it until you get the desired focus.  If you bend it, one side (or the top or the bottom) of the shot will be in focus whilst the other side (or the top or the bottom) will be as in focus as you desire.

Lens Baby
Lens Baby
Lens Baby

Some pretty cool dreamy effects can be achieved with a lens baby. It’s definitely a piece of kit I could see us using in our Somnambulant ‘Word in a Bag’ assignment.

Textured Sheet

Textured Sheet

The textured sheet is put over the lens and blurs the image somewhat. The amount of blur and distortion can be adjusted by how close it is to the lens.

Texture effect

This is another bit of kit that could be used to create a dreamy effect. It can also be used to warp subjects in the image as is happening in the image above.

I actually held the texture sheet too far from the lens of the camera in the image above which resulted in a reflection of what was behind me appearing in the shot as well. Not the look I was going for.

Video Camera

On the video camera, we tried slow shutter speeds and breathing on the leans.

The slow shutter speed blurs the motion that’s going on in the shot, whereas a faster shutter speed captures the action clearly (like a still camera but with moving images).

Breathing on the lens mists it up for a short time before it slowly/gradually recedes to reveal what’s in the shot more clearly.

Note to self: To get to shutter speed and aperture on the video camera we used, you need to go through the menus:

Function -> Rec. programs -> Shutter Priority

Function -> Rec. programs -> Aperture Priority

Out of all the bits of equipment we used, I can see the Lens Baby and/or Textured Sheet standing the most chance of being used in our short movie to describe the word “somnambulant”.

Possible Still Shots to Include

Another trip out, this time with a DSLR equipped with lens baby, gained us a few still images we might include into the final production.

After our initial testing session with the equipment, the first time any of us had seen any of the bits of kit, we were all in agreement that the lens baby could very possibly be used. After a chat about how we could use it, we decided it could be used to show what our character was dreaming about as he walked around in his somnambulant state. Below are a few of the images I think we could put into the film. Click the images for a larger version.

Lottery Win Dream
Random Mr Bean dream
Holiday Dreams
Free cash dreams
Childhood dreams
Fast car dreams

Final Film

Evaluation

I feel that the process we went through went ok with most members of the team doing their fair share at various stages of the process. A problem we had was that we got carried away with things that I feel could have been left until after other things had been done which meant we were messing around with things that didn’t really matter right up until the deadline was reached.

Right at the last moment, we decided to add a soundtrack to the film before being reminded that they weren’t allowed by the assignment brief. We were busy getting the final edits done and wanted to add a few more self-created sound effects and forgot about the finer details of the brief.

Other than that, I feel the process went well. A little better time-management would have served us well but, to be honest, nobody in the group took control and managed the process. I, personally, didn’t feel like I knew anything like enough about creating a film or editing using Adobe Premier Pro to take control of the group.